To find an authentic beignet, Kansas City locals have the option of making the 13-hour, 900-mile journey to New Orleans, or simply shuffling over to Beignet in the River Market. Here, chefs concoct their own interpretations of the famous French donut, infusing pastry with decadent flavors such as Bavarian cream, Butterfinger, tiramisu, and caramel praline. The tasty, fried treats also serve as a vehicle for savory ingredient combinations such as mozzarella and meatballs, or bay shrimp, roasted peppers, and Szechuan cream cheese. The menu ventures into crepe territory as well with cornbread versions loaded down with dusted catfish and crawfish tails.
Batter is ladled out onto the surface of a steaming hot plate, and as the Chez Elle chef spreads it out into a circle with a wooden spatula, it slowly transforms into a light, crispy-edged crepe. Each tender wrap is filled with sweet and savory ingredients, from spinach, artichokes, and crème fraîche, to raspberry sauce and chocolate mousse. Vegan and gluten-free batters cater to diners of all dietary persuasions. Freshly prepared plates, sided with wine, coffee, and beer, are carried to the leather couches and sleek chairs of the dining room, or to an airy outside patio. This parisian atmosphere is cultivated by owner Ellen Trakas, who first became enamored of crepes when she lived in France. She pours that passion not only into the food, but also the eco-conscious business practices at Chez Elle. Paper goods are made with biodegradable corn rather than traditional coal dust, and the café's used coffee grounds find second homes as compost for local farms.
Natural light pours through floor-to-ceiling windows onto hardwood floors, armchairs, and cinnamon-hued walls. Scents hinting at pork belly, tangles of spicy noodles, and other Korean ingredients draw more excited attention than a nest of baby fighter pilots. Chefs twist sushi rolls with barbecue eel, smoked salmon, and fresh avocado, and espresso machines purr over whitecaps of cappuccino foam. Behind the counter, ciabatta and whole-wheat bread support turkey, ham, and raisin-studded chicken salad.
The Filling Station independently serves locally roasted espresso and coffee and a scrumptious selection of breakfast and lunch bites in a garage-themed café. Browse the Union Hill menu for the Filling Station's caffeinated concoctions, with espresso roasted from Broadway Café and Roastery and coffee from Oddly Correct Coffee Roasters. For breakfast, the Filling Station offers a plethora of baked goods, from blackberry peach muffins ($1.80) to freshly baked cinnamon rolls ($2.25). Lunchtime brings the killer veggie wrap ($7.50), packed with spinach, tomato, onion, carrots, and more. The Westport menu is more compact, but you can still pick up an apple walnut Danish ($2.50) or almond marzipan croissant ($2.50) in the drive-thru before heading out to hunt the evasive galloping fig tree.